Who Is Making Your Decisions?
Edward C. Williams, C.S.B., of Indianapolis, Indiana
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
"Fidelity to divine commands, to divine authority, leads us to right decisions - decisions that survive the wear and tear of experience," Edward C. Williams, C.S.B., of Indianapolis, Indiana, told an audience in Boston on Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1975.
He described how to avoid "being forced into hasty and perhaps unwise decision-making by the onrush of circumstances or the surge of emotions." A member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, Mr. Williams spoke in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.
Mr. Williams gave up a business career in order to devote his full time to the healing ministry of the Church of Christ, Scientist. He is also a teacher of Christian Science.
The title of his lecture was "Who Is Making Your Decisions?" He was introduced by Mrs. Daisette McKelvie of Boston. An abridged text of his lecture follows:
I remember watching a dog one day as he tried to cross a heavily-traveled street. Cars were passing from both directions and he couldn't find an opening. Finally there was a gap in the traffic and he started across. Suddenly a car bore down upon him. Quickly he turned and scampered back to the curb. By instinct, or reflex, he reversed his decision. Or you might even say the rapidly approaching car made the decision for him.
How many times have you and I stood at a mental crossroad, and then been pushed into making a hasty decision? Every day we make hundreds of decisions. We're called on to accept or reject thoughts which stream through our consciousness like running water. And above and beyond commonplace decisions there are larger ones. So really, what could be more important than making right decisions? Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, states in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ''Your decisions will master you, whichever direction they take" (p. 392). But is there a special way to go about making right decisions? To avoid being forced into hasty and perhaps unwise, decision-making by the onrush of circumstances or the surge of emotions?
Fidelity to divine commands, to divine authority, leads us to right decisions - decisions that survive the wear and tear of experience.
This afternoon let's consider together this kind of decision-making. It comes as the result of hard and careful thought, but thought that is open to the divine facts in every situation.
This is the way Christ Jesus reasoned, from divine facts in obedience to God. In other words, God was the starting point. Take his decision for example when, as the Bible says, he was three times tempted by the devil. Today I think most of us would give a different name to the aggressive suggestions which tried to draw Jesus away from God; we'd call them temptations of materialism, personal ambition, appetite and so on. Jesus rejected each temptation and held to the vision gained through long days and nights of prayer - the vision of God as Father, as divine Life, Love, Spirit, a vision so essential to the fulfillment of his mission. His fidelity to this perception of God was the basis of his decision to reject ungodlike suggestions.
We might say Jesus was a man of principle. And so he was. But we can go farther. Christian Scientists often use the word "Principle" spelled with a capital P, as a synonym for God. Jesus, then, was a man of divine Principle, a man of God.
This divine Principle is the basis of all true law and integrity. It's unvarying; it never makes a mistake or does an injustice; it's completely dependable. But we never think of it as just a cold, impersonal abstraction. It has a special connotation - divine Love. This divine Principle, Love, indicates the universal creator who gives us identity, supports us by law, and then comforts and guides us. Jesus understood it so well that he brought healing, comfort, and relief to his fellowman.
And by this same fidelity to the divine Principle, Love, Jesus overcame evil of every kind. How else could he have made so firm a decision when the whole world's evil seemed to zero in upon him, like a hypnotic force? His love of good gave him spiritual and moral strength from the infinite reservoir of God's presence. As a man of God, of divine Principle, he gained power and authority from the universal good that is God.
Last winter I was invited to sit for a few hours on the bench with a judge in municipal court. I watched a long line of public offenders come forward one by one to face judgment. A young man arrested for burglary; another for carrying concealed weapons; another who wouldn't support his wife. Their common problem was that they were not principled men, not men of right decision. Motivated by dishonesty and selfishness instead of fidelity to good, they lost their freedom and were subject to conviction and sentence.
In contrast, Jesus and all humanity were blessed by the decision he made when he was tempted. His rejection of evil suggestions changed the whole course of human history. There would have been no resurrection, no ascension, no Christianity, if Jesus hadn't made his spiritually enlightened decision. As the Bible says, he "brought life and immortality to light" (II Tim. 1:10).
It's important in speaking of Christ Jesus to realize that Christ is more than a name. It signifies the message from God that Jesus brought to men - the message of man's true relationship to God as an expression of divine Principle. It's only through the Christ that God, divine Principle, can be understood.
Because he lived the Christ, Jesus was the world's most effective healer and spiritual teacher. By his words and deeds he defined the nature of God. He taught his disciples that God, as well as being the divine Principle, Love, is also indestructible, divine Life.
In prayer to God for his disciples just before his crucifixion, when every effort would be made to destroy his life, Jesus said, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Jesus knew that living isnít a condition of matter. It's a condition of knowing something - of knowing and understanding God and man's relation to God. By his resurrection he showed that a physical body doesn't contain our life and can't take it away - because God is Life, our Life.
This spiritual reality of God as the one Life and of man as the spiritual idea of God, is central to the Christ message which the man, Jesus, exemplified. His decision to go even to the cross to prove his point was logically based on his understanding of God as indestructible Life and of man as Life's expression. And he proved his point by rising from the tomb.
The immediate effect of Jesus' proof was to inspire his disciples with a more spiritual outlook. For example, Peter, weighed down with remorse after his denial of Jesus, followed by the crucifixion, seemed to feel there was nothing more to do but return to his fishnets. But imagine his transformation when Jesus calmly reappeared and talked with him, turning him gently away from his wrong decision to go fishing with the penetrating question, "Lovest thou me more than these?" (John 21:15.)
Suddenly Peter found that his love for Jesus, which he assumed was self-evident, had to be re-examined. And it must have looked pretty small as Jesus persisted with the question "Lovest thou me?" Perhaps Peter felt the contrast between his easy reply "Thou knowest that I love thee" and the profound responsibility to prove what he said. But Jesus' repeated command, "Feed my sheep," struck home, and Peter was lifted to a higher decision. He left his nets to become Peter the Apostle, the spiritual leader proclaiming the Christ. Peter, the man of divine Principle, the man of conviction.
The same regenerating influence of the Christ was illustrated again in the experience of Saul who was a mortal enemy of Jesus' followers. He reversed his whole position to take the name of Paul and devote his life to the Christian teaching. What made him do this? Through the Christ he caught a glimpse of God as divine Principle, Love, and it brought a decision.
Now you'll remember I said earlier that an understanding of God as Divine Principle provides a basis for right decisions. The life of Jesus illustrated his fidelity to divine Principle and brought to men the message of the Christ. Through the Christ his followers caught a new vision of God and were transformed by its influence. They made the right decision.
Every one of us can feel the transforming influence of the Christ, the true idea of God. And this understanding of our divine Principle will lead us to right decisions, as it did Peter and Saul.
Centuries before Jesus the prophet Joel said, "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision" (Joel 3:14). Wouldn't the "day of the Lord" be a time of spiritual enlightenment? A time when an enlightened sense of God as the divine Principle, Love, would reveal man's God-given qualities of integrity, fidelity, and love of good as a basis for right decisions? The time is today and every day. Right decisions come naturally as the result of a correct understanding of God and of man as made by God.
What are some of the decisions you and I need to make?
Are there dark areas in our past for which we feel guilty? If you've decided that God is condemning you, it's a mistaken decision. God, divine Love, doesn't condemn us; He corrects and uplifts us when we really decide to seek His guidance.
Have you lost someone? Then decide now to rise out of the belief that man can ever be lost from God, or that God, divine Life, could be lost to man. A lady once said to me, "My husband was such a good man - why did this have to happen to him?" As we talked, I brought out that so far as her husband was good he was immortal. That his goodness was the substance of his real being. She began to see that his qualities of good weren't gone at all. They were present because God, his eternal Principle and Life, is ever present. She decided this was a much more intelligent way to think of her husband and she found a sense of peace.
How about disease? It's often believed that disease is a merciless force over which we have no power of decision. But as thinking individuals, shouldn't the decision really belong to you and me? We are individual consciousness. In the long run, we shape our experience by the quality of thought we entertain. And we shape the quality of our thought by the basis or starting point we take for it. If people think their way into physical disorders through indulgence, tension, or hate, couldnít they think their way out through spiritual enlightenment? How important, then, that we listen to the Christ and take God, divine Principle, as the starting point of our thought. Only then can we make firm decisions for what is good and true!
I could give many examples but let me give one in some detail. This concerns a man I know who found that spiritual enlightenment enabled him to make a decision for health. His wife had asked me to call on him in a veterans' hospital. He was a veteran of the First World War, blind, and under medical treatment for diabetes and heart trouble. He'd been in and out of the hospital repeatedly and was a chronic complainer. The hospital staff were fed up with him, and he with them.
Our conversation soon brought out he wasn't interested in Christian Science, and this whole business of my calling on him had apparently been his wife's idea. I could understand how deeply she must have wanted him to find help, but I didn't feel I should say much more to him until he wanted that help himself. So after a few moments of talking with him I rose to leave.
I did tell him, however, that any time he was ready to go home and give up his reliance on drugs and study Christian Science he could be healed. How could a blind man study Christian Science? Well, I explained that he could obtain a record player and a few of the recordings of Science and Health and listen to them each day. Then I went on my way.
A couple of weeks later his wife called to say that her husband had made a decision. He had left the hospital, obtained a record player and some of the recordings of Science and Health; and was listening to them every day. In fact he was beginning to see a little.
He couldn't have listened to much of Science and Health without beginning to learn something of God as divine Principle. Right in the Preface there's this statement: "The divine Principle of healing is proved in the personal experience of any sincere seeker of Truth" (Science and Health, p. x).†††††††††††
So I wasn't surprised a few weeks later to hear further good news. His wife called to say that her husband was now reading the Bible and Science and Health each day. He had abandoned his special diabetic diet and was eating anything he wanted with no discomfort. The heart attacks were less frequent.
The man himself called a couple of weeks later. In a happy voice he said he was now reading much more every day. He was taking long walks, and could see well enough to recognize his friends across the street. The heart attacks had stopped entirely.
Now I'm sure that this transformation wasn't as easy as it sounds. We don't know all of the mental wrestlings this man must have gone through during the weeks as he came face to face with the tremendous challenge Science and Health presented, the challenge to deny the power of disease and to claim his freedom as the child of God.
But this is my point. Here was a man who was healed by hearing and reading the message of the Science of Christ. It revealed God to him as divine Life and Love, the Principle of his whole being. It caused a mental and spiritual adjustment which changed his thought from self-centered ingratitude and faultfinding to the happy acceptance of God's all-governing love. It made him willing to spiritualize his thinking.
Under the continuing guidance of divine Principle he came to his great decision - the decision for health - and he was healed.
More and more people are finding release from mental and physical bondage through an enlightened sense of God. But I do want to emphasize that this requires some hard thinking. It takes the humility to lay aside old preconceptions and give honest consideration to radical spiritual facts. It takes the courage to protest against entrenched materialism. It takes the willingness to change. It takes work. If you're looking for an easy way where you don't have to change the very bedrock of your thinking, then Science and Health is not the book for you.
This book dares each of us to change the basis of his thinking, just as the veteran I told you about. It dares us to rise up from self-satisfied materialism to a more spiritual outlook. And those who have the courage to accept the dare make new discoveries of what's true and real. It's like looking out through a window in a dark, gray wall and seeing man for the first time in the sunlight of spiritual reality - and then discovering that man is you! Science and Health helps us to see ourselves as God sees us - as His beloved, spiritual ideal. And it's a rather remarkable story how this book which has done so much, for so many, came to be written.
Today it's often believed that God spoke to humanity centuries ago in a remote period of history; but actually divine Principle, Love, speaks in every age to those who are prepared to hear. It was perfectly natural that Mary Baker Eddy, in our own age, caught the vision of God as divine Principle. She was ready. At a moment when she was almost overwhelmed by personal problems of many kinds, a lifetime of Bible study came to focus in a spiritual discovery that not only transformed her life, but introduced a new era for Christianity.
At one point in Science and Health she says, "When apparently near the confines of mortal existence, standing already within the shadow of' the death-valley, I learned these truths in divine Science: that all real being is in God, the divine Mind, and that Life, Truth, and Love are all-powerful and ever-present" (p. 108). It was out of this new understanding of God and the change of thought it brought that Mrs. Eddy made her decision to write her book - a decision that has illuminated the lives of millions of people throughout the world. Mrs. Eddy was deeply convinced that God was directing her. The enlightenment, of the Christ flooded her thought and she wrote with inspiration, explaining the divine Principle and Science of Jesus' teachings.
Science and Health doesn't attempt to give the answer to every life-problem. Rather, it penetrates the cold crust of literal Bible teaching to probe the deep spiritual meaning of the Scriptures and show us how to go individually to God for guidance. We begin to understand the Bible statement that God made man in His image and likeness. It becomes reasonable to know that God is our Life, and that our true, spiritual identity is God's indestructible expression. Science and Health illuminates the Bible with the assurance that God will lovingly unfold specific answers to all who understand and trust Him. For example, the road map you would use to reach a distant city doesn't show every curve and chuckhole, every hill and clump of trees. But it does show the route. If you follow it, you make right decisions along the way and reach your destination.
How can you be sure that Science and Health isn't just another book expounding one more tiresome philosophy? Because it transforms thought. Read it. Discover for yourself the difference between human philosophy and the Science of Christ. Mrs. Eddy proved this Science by healing, and teaching her students to heal all human problems including disease. It's possible for you and me to make transforming decisions today because Science and Health elucidates for us the divine Science Jesus demonstrated.
Just how does this divine Science help us to change our thought and make the right decisions?
First of all, Science and Health shows us that good is God, divine Principle, and all that is real is the expression of God. All the qualities of good are individualized in God's spiritual, perfect man, the true selfhood of you and me. In human experience, the Bible and Science and Health enable us to differentiate between our natural good and the phenomena of evil that seem so real to our human senses.
This raises an age-old question. If God is supreme where does evil come from? But the mystery vanishes if we hold to God as infinite good and think of evil as simply the suppositional inversion of divine good. Good is real. Evil is the suppositional inversion. It's suppositional because God never made it. Jesus referred to evil as a liar, and elsewhere in the Bible evil is referred to as error.
But when evil, the inverse of good, is widely believed, even taught, it begins to be accepted as true. It might even seem to operate as a law and power producing untold confusion, discord and restriction.
For example, there was a time when men believed the earth was stationary and that the sun circled around it. This was an erroneous belief, yet it influenced the thinking of millions of people. Imagine the bad decisions which must have resulted from this error! But when Copernicus discovered that it's the other way around, that the earth orbits the sun, the error was corrected. This correction brought liberation and made it possible, centuries later, for our aerospace scientists to make the right decisions needed for an accurate moon-shot.
But their decisions depended largely on the use of instruments which are extensions of the physical senses, whereas spiritual sense goes much farther. Through spiritual sense we can differentiate between spiritual reality and erroneous, evil beliefs. We can protect ourselves from the enslavement of these beliefs. To do this we need the faculty of spiritual sense. Science and Health will help us develop this spiritual sense.
Science and Health corrects the belief that man's life and intelligence are in matter and explains the spiritual nature of man and his conscious relation to God, his divine Principle. This makes it possible for us to understand more clearly our true position in God's universe. Just as Copernicus taught the true relation of earth to sun, so Science and Health explains the relation of man to the central intelligence of the universe. This explanation enables us to make better decisions. We can claim our position in the heaven of spiritual understanding. We can occupy the place of our true identity.
The notion that you and I are basically physical, and that life is subject to matter, degrades instead of liberates our concept of ourselves as God's expression. We can break out of this crippling belief by learning how to differentiate between false beliefs based on evil as real, and spiritual facts based on good as the only reality. We begin to recognize our true identity as wholly spiritual and we experience the blessings that flow from this recognition.
Spiritual sense, then, is the ability to understand God, good, as the absolute reality and to differentiate clearly between the real and the unreal, the good and the evil. We can hold to the one and cast off the other. Spiritual sense is the window in the wall through which we can see beyond. With spiritual sense we see through the gray barrier of material sense. We might even exclaim, "Oh! I see!" - and go on to make a better decision.
A friend of mine had an experience which illustrates the value of this cultivated spiritual sense. She told me that she had been troubled with a chronic throat problem which didn't seem to yield to her efforts to heal it through study and prayer. One day an acquaintance asked her the date of her birthday, and gave her a booklet on astrology which contained her horoscope. My friend had no interest in astrology, but as she glanced idly through the booklet she was surprised to find an actual prediction of throat trouble indicated under her date of birth, supposedly due to the aspect and position of the planets on that date. Immediately she recognized her problem as the effect of materialistic, astrological superstition, widely held in the thoughts of millions of people. Unwittingly she had admitted its subtle suggestion into her own consciousness and now it was producing physical disorder.
You'll remember I said spiritual sense is the ability to understand God, divine Truth, and distinguish between the real and the unreal. And I said that Science and Health helps us to understand God through the inspired message of the Bible. Well, my friend worked her way to a right conclusion by letting divine Principle give direction to her thought.
She began by firmly denying that the planets have any power to influence man. Insisting upon the all-power of God, good, she ruled out of consciousness the belief in a cruel power which could override God's loving care and produce suffering. She prayerfully acknowledged that God is the universal creator, as the Bible says, and that God is good. Then she concluded that God's universe and all it includes must be wholly good.
Science and Health says, "The planets have no more power over man than over his Maker, since God governs the universe; but man, reflecting God's power, has dominion over all the earth and its hosts" (p. 102). My friend reasoned from this that the intelligent control of a wholly good Principle can produce only blessing, not cursing. She saw that God is eternal Life and that she, as God's spiritual, individual expression had never been born into matter. Therefore, in reality there was no calendar, no date and hour, by which divine Love had her catalogued for suffering or evil of any kind. This reasoning, based on her spiritual conviction of the absolute supremacy of the divine Principle, Love, brought such mental release that she, like the veteran and like Mrs. Eddy, found herself deciding for health. The throat problem disappeared and it never returned.
Through spiritual sense my friend was able to differentiate between astrological fallacy claiming power to predestine suffering for man, and the spiritual reality in which God is the only source of law and power. This brought her freedom. She proved that under God's law of love she, not other people's beliefs about the stars, held the power of decision.
Spiritual sense, then, is the perception that God, Spirit, is the divine Principle and governor of the universe. With this sense each one of us can differentiate between the real and the unreal, the good and the evil. We can make right decisions that heal and save us from disorder of every kind.
Spiritual sense enables us to make decisions that free us from suffering. It enables us to follow the compass of spiritual truth and hold our lives on a right course - toward all that is good and satisfying. We might call this the art of spiritual navigation.
One reason this thought of spiritual navigation has a special meaning for me is that I've seen it hold people on a true course. And I've seen it save others from disaster. I can look back in my own early experience and see how it guided me because a small seed of spiritual truth had taken root.
At the age of ten I was sent to a boys' school by loving parents who thought they were providing the finest educational environment for me. But it turned out to be otherwise. The bad associations I found there pulled me way off my right course. I began to lie and steal, and with this came that desolate feeling of not being respected by others, or even by myself. There was little supervision outside the classroom. The younger boys of my age were often slapped around by the older ones, and our vocabulary became the language of the gutter. I wasn't big enough to whip anybody and my encounters with others usually ended in bruises, frustration, and bitterness. The general influence was one to distort and twist the thought of a young boy and I followed it to the point of having a bad reputation.
But I can still remember two words which would come to my thought occasionally, words which I had heard earlier in the Christian Science Sunday School at home. They were strange words I didn't understand, faint sounds like a distant echo from another world. One was the word "divine." Another was the word "omnipotent," whatever that meant.
The following year I was sent to another school, this time a school for the children of Christian Scientists. These kids were like any others, but they treated me differently. It was a small school located on a farm in Wisconsin and we each had our daily chores to do. I remember so clearly how, after supper was finished and we'd cleaned up the kitchen, we sat around the big table together and recited passages from the Bible and from Science and Health. One from Psalms I never forgot. "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalms 139:23, 24). A favorite from Science and Health which I learned at that time is: "The starting-point of divine Science is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all, and that there is no other might nor Mind, - that God is Love, and therefore He is divine Principle" (Science and Health, p. 275). So, I began to understand what the words "divine" and "omnipotent" meant.
Some years later, contrary to my parents' desire, I quit school and drifted around the country. I got into some tight spots, but those elementary lessons in spiritual navigation had started something. For one thing, I was now carrying the Bible and Science and Health in my packsack as I traveled, sometimes by motorcycle and sometimes hitchhiking. I'd get these books out and ponder their message whenever I could.
Gradually the idea of God as divine Principle began to penetrate my thought and awaken a sense of direction. My mental slide rule began to register a more accurate sense of values. It was as if the needle on my compass had finally been released so that it swung around and pointed steadfastly in one direction. It wouldn't countenance any contrary decisions.
We learn this art of spiritual navigation as we understand that good, not evil, is the Principle and reality of our being. Through spiritual sense we differentiate between the true and the false. We learn the use of our intuitive slide rule so that we can more intelligently calculate true values. We learn how to adjust, with finer discrimination, our compass of spiritual sense. We learn how to interpret more perceptively the charts and records of those who have gone before us. We can read more accurately the constellations of spiritual Truth. We can hold our position in the forever of eternal Life. Instead of circling uncontrollably like a piece of junk in outer space, we can chart a true course with spiritually enlightened decisions.
Divine guidance now
Now, it's been a long journey from the boys' school to my date with you here today; but couldn't we reasonably say that the course of this journey has unfolded under the guidance of divine Principle, God? And each of you - you're not here in this audience by accident. A right decision brought you here. The fact that all of our paths have converged to this central point today so that we can mutually bear witness to God's guidance illustrates the influence of divine Principle in the lives of those who seek Him, however uncertainly.
And I would ask you to think about this on your way home. The same infinitely intelligent God, divine Mind, which brought you here through right decision, is always with us to direct our way. An understanding of this tender, loving presence provides a sure basis for reasoning to right conclusions so that our finest decisions really come from God.
The question "Who is making your decisions?" will always be answered best in four words: "Thy will be done."